MI5 veteran Fleming to take over embattled GCHQ spy agency

This file photo taken on Jan. 8. 2015 by Britain's MI5 Security Service shows an undated image of Andrew Parker the Director General of Britainís domestic security service MI5. (AP)
Updated 19 March 2017

MI5 veteran Fleming to take over embattled GCHQ spy agency

LONDON: The deputy director-general of Britain’s internal security service is to become the new head of intelligence eavesdropping service, the Sunday Times newspaper reported without citing the source of its information.
The Sunday Times reported MI5’s Jeremy Fleming, who it said had worked at the intelligence agency for at least 20 years, would be named the head of Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) this week.
The previous head of GCHQ, Robert Hannigan, who had been in post since 2014, said in January he was stepping down for family reasons.
Last week, in a rare public statement, GCHQ dismissed claims made on a US television station that it helped former President Barack Obama eavesdrop on Donald Trump after last year’s US presidential election.
On Friday, Trump stood by the unproven claims and shrugged off a dispute with Britain over the notion their spy agency had a hand in it.
“Jeremy will be expected to make a trip to the US very early on to seek reassurances from our partners,” the Sunday Times reported an anonymous source as saying.
“It will be important to remind our partners there that more consideration and respect need to be afforded to the intelligence communities by the Trump administration.”
GCHQ could not immediately be reached for comment.
Prime Minister Theresa May’s spokesman said earlier that the White House has assured her that it would not repeat allegations that GCHQ had helped former President Obama eavesdrop on Trump.
The spokesman said the charge, made on Tuesday by Fox News analyst Andrew Napolitano, that GCHQ had helped Obama wire tap Trump, was “ridiculous.”
“We have made clear to the administration that these claims are ridiculous and they should be ignored and we have received assurances that these allegations will not be repeated,” said the spokesman.
On the “Fox & Friends” program, Napolitano, a political commentator and former New Jersey judge, said that rather than ordering US agencies to spy on Trump, Obama had obtained transcripts of Trump’s conversations from GCHQ so there were “no American fingerprints” on it.
White House spokesman Sean Spicer on Thursday quoted Napolitano’s comments about GCHQ when he spoke to the media.
A White House official said British officials had expressed their concern to senior Trump aides but the official declined to explicitly apologize for Spicer’s citation of the Fox News allegations.
Separately, in London, a UK government spokesman said: “Our ambassador has been in touch with Sean Spicer and others at the White House. Our national security advisers have been in touch as well. We have made clear these allegations are utterly ridiculous, and have received reassurances that they will not be repeated.”
Earlier, in a rare public statement, the GCHQ, Britain’s equivalent of the US National Security Agency which monitors overseas electronic communications, said the claims should be ignored.
“Recent allegations made by media commentator Judge Andrew Napolitano about GCHQ being asked to conduct ‘wire tapping’ against the then President Elect are nonsense,” said a spokesman for GCHQ, which never usually comments on criticism of its work beyond saying it always operates under a strict legal framework.
Reuters reported earlier this week that an unidentified British security official had denied the allegations about Trump.
GCHQ, based in western England, is one of three main British spy agencies alongside the MI6 Secret Intelligence Service and the MI5 Security Service.
GCHQ has a close relationship with the NSA, as well as the eavesdropping agencies of Australia, Canada and New Zealand in a consortium called “Five Eyes.”


Shared experiences: Philippines, Libya eye stronger defense cooperation over Daesh

Updated 29 September 2020

Shared experiences: Philippines, Libya eye stronger defense cooperation over Daesh

  • Follows meeting between senior officials to discuss bilateral ties between two countries

MANILA: The Philippines and Libya are looking to explore opportunities for defense cooperation based on their “shared experiences” in fighting Daesh, the Philippines’ charge d’affaires and embassy head of mission in Tripoli, Elmer Cato, told Arab News.

“The Philippines and Libya could cooperate in such areas as counter-terrorism and intelligence sharing. We shared our experience fighting Daesh in Marawi and Sirte,” Cato said following his meeting with Libya’s Defense Minister Salahuddin Al-Nimroush on Sept. 21, referring in part to a five-month siege which pitted Filipino forces against Daesh-inspired militants, and the eight months of fighting to liberate Sirte from the group.

“In Sirte, a number of nurses were taken hostage by ISIS (Daesh) but later managed to escape. In Derna, four Filipino oil workers were taken and later executed, but their bodies have not yet been recovered. We continue to work with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in recovering the remains of our four countrymen,” he said.

He added, however, that the meeting — which included discussions on language training and military-to-military exchanges — was only “exploratory” and intended to see how the Philippines could expand ties “with one of our closest friends” in Africa.

“Cyberdefense was (also) brought up because the minister (Al-Nimroush) was an IT expert,” Cato said, before thanking him for giving the Philippine navy vessel BRP Gabriela Silang permission to enter Libyan waters and evacuate Filipinos “at the height of the fighting” in Tripoli earlier this year.

“We took the opportunity to express our appreciation to Libya for approving our request for the BRP Gabriela Silang to enter Libyan waters and dock in Tripoli, in case we needed to evacuate Filipinos,” he said.

Al-Nimroush expressed his appreciation for the Philippine’s continued presence in Tripoli through its embassy as “one of several countries that chose to keep their diplomatic missions open” and praised Filipino nurses and workers in the oil sector for their “important role” in Libya.

“The minister thanked us ... for being true friends of Libya. He said he and the Libyan people appreciated the fact that we kept our embassy in Tripoli open and allowed our people to continue caring for their sick and in helping them pump their oil. We told him that’s what friends are for,” Cato said.

He added that while Al-Nimroush “had been around Southeast Asia,” he never had the chance to visit the Philippines. 

“He told me ‘when I do get the chance to visit, I will go scuba diving in Palawano,’” Cato said.

The Philippines recently won the Best Overseas Diving Award 2020 during the 28th Marine Diving Fair held at the Sunshine City Convention Center in Tokyo, Japan. 

Cebu, Bohol, Moalboal, and Busuanga, all of which are teeming with whale sharks, snappers, dugong, and other exotic species, are some of the most popular diving sites in the Philippines.

Cato’s meeting with Al-Nimroush followed talks with Libyan Foreign Minister Faraj Abdelrahman Abumtary earlier this month, where the two discussed the state of Philippine-Libya relations and steps to strengthen bilateral ties. 

This was in addition to discussing the measures taken by Libyan authorities to ensure the well-being of more than 2,300 Filipinos residing in the country.